I often hear people say they don’t like to cook at home because shopping for one meal requires too.many.ingredients. And when they do buy all the ingredients and actually make a home cooked meal, they’re left with a ton of unused items that they don’t know what to do with.
I totally understand that frustration- I hate spending money on ingredients I can’t easily use again. I find, though, when I keep the following staples on hand, it not only means that cooking a new recipe doesn’t require a huge grocery trip, but it makes it much easier to use all up those leftovers and pull together new creations any night of the week.
1. Good Olive Oil Pretty much goes in any entree you’re making, and often works as a healthier substitute for butter. You don’t need to spend a ton to get good quality- Trader Joe’s sells a several good bottles for under $10.
2. Fresh Garlic First and foremost, that pre-chopped stuff you see in those little jars in the grocery store is not a substitute for fresh garlic. Buy the real stuff. It’s inexpensive, lasts for a few weeks (store the heads in the fridge), and literally can be added to almost any entree.
3. Vinegar You can make salad dressing in seconds with just olive oil, salt, pepper, and vinegar. Red wine, white wine, balsamic- doesn’t matter. Buy whatever suits your fancy.
4. Chicken or Vegetable Stock I can’t begin to explain how convenient it is to have a couple quarts of stock on hand. They making throwing together soups and sauces, or upping the flavor on risotto or rice a cinch.
5. Lemons Fresh lemon juice is such a common ingredient when I’m cooking meat, vegetable, or pasta dishes, that I always like to have one in the fridge. Not to mention, they’re great for impromptu cocktails!
6. Diced Tomatoes You’d be surprised what you can create with diced tomatoes. Though I prefer fresh over canned vegetables, having diced tomatoes on hand make week night cooking (think 10 minute pasta sauce) a breeze. You can get very reasonable organic cans at most grocery stores.
7.Wine In short, you should be cooking with it. Wine can be used as a marinade for any meat, for the base of a pasta dish, and for an innumerable number of sauces. The great thing? Most often you don’t need a specific type, just a red or white you like to drink.
8. French Mustard Another quick source of flavor- put it in salad dressing, roast potatoes in it, or use it as a glaze for salmon. Think outside the box, this ingredient goes well beyond a topping for hot dogs!
9. Eggs They’re required in any baking good and provide an easy (and filling) weeknight meal when you only have energy to make an omelette (or let’s face it, scrambled eggs).
10. Dried Herbs I’ll go into the specifics on which ones I buy and why in a dedicated post, but for now, I always like to keep curry, cinnamon, red pepper flakes, and dried oregano on hand.
I’m so curious, what do you guys keep in your pantry? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Ps: It goes without saying, you should also always have salt and pepper on hand- but I thought that was a bit of a no brainer!